The Social Justice Committee in its report has recommended that the government divide OBC reservation into three categories — backward class (7 per cent), more backward class (11 per cent) and most backward class (9 per cent).
A concerted move by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Aditynath to redefine reservations ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections could end up upsetting the caste arithmetic of major opposition parties in the state. Soon after taking over as CM, Aditynath had set up a Social Justice Committee to look into reservations and explore the option of capping quota for different castes under OBCs and SC/ST reservations.
The step was aimed at ensuring that every caste gets its share in 27 per cent reservations given to OBC — the community has 79 castes. It was argued that only some of the castes such as Yadavs, Patels, and Ahirs were taking away a major chunk of the reservations while leaving others to settle for less. Several castes in the OBC community had been protesting this growing divide.
Political analysts believe that this was the BJP’s brahmashtra ahead of general elections to divide opposition votes in the state which is politically important in terms of its seat share in the Lok Sabha. However, some of the recommendations of the committee have come back to do just the opposite.
Some of the BJP’s own alliance partners — Apna Dal and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party — in the state have taken opposing views to the proposed changes. While Apna Dal, which has already started to voice its resentment with the BJP, has sided with the Samajwadi Party to seek reservations in proportion to the population of a particular community, another ally Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party believed Yadavs and Patels have been eating into others’ shares.
The Committee in its report has recommended that the government divide OBC reservation into three categories — backward class (7 per cent), more backward class (11 per cent) and most backward class (9 per cent).
The report has been submitted to the chief minister but he is yet to table it in the House. The reason behind the delay in tabling the report is stiff opposition by BJP ally Apna Dal — which says that the reservations should be in proportion to the population in the state. A similar demand has been raised by SP chief and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.
In Uttar Pradesh, the Kurmi community makes 24 per cent and Yadavs 40 per cent of OBCs, making for significant vote banks for the SP and Apna Dal, respectively. Both parties have opposed the proposed changes and instead sought a Census-based reservation. They feel that the community which has a larger population will be at a loss if the current recommendations are implemented. The committee has also suggested 7 per cent quota for Ahir, Yadav, Gwala, Yadubanshi, Sonar, Jat, Kurmi, and Patels.
Apna Dal national president Ashish Patel has called the whole report as flawed and questioned the basis on which the committee came to this number. Speaking to FE Online, he said: “We are not against the division of reservations, but how will you do that? We say jiski jitni bhagidaari, utni uski hissedari. So, the government should do a caste-based Census and then fix the reservations accordingly.”
Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party General Secretary Arun Rajbhar says that these people — Yadavs and Patels — have already taken reservations benefits and they have been eating into others’ shares. “Does Anupriya Patel need a reservation? Does Ram Vilas Paswan need a reservation?” Arun Rajbhar asks citing a 2013 Allahabad High Court order which said that reservation for those who have got enough representation should be discontinued.
He further said that CM Adityanath does not want to table the report in the House. “We have already started protests in all the districts of the state and will not sit until the recommendations are implemented in its entirety.”
The SBSP General Secretary further said that the concept of division of OBC reservation is not new. “Nine states including Bihar, Jharkhand, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh have implemented such division. Then why not the Uttar Pradesh government?” He further said that if the government did not implement the report the people under backward and most backward class will teach a lesson to the BJP in the upcoming general elections.
Rajbhar claims Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party is fighting for the most backward castes that constitute over 30 per cent under OBC and 17 per cent under SCs. He suggested that their numbers can swing the elections either way. According to the Committee, some of the castes that are lagging behind in getting reservation benefits are Prajapati, Kumhar, Gaderia, Pal, Baghel, Jogi, Maurya, Vishwakarma, Kachhi-Kushwaha Mali, Saini and Lohar.
Earlier this week, Akhilesh Yadav slammed Yogi Adityanath and said that the BJP was playing ‘divide and rule’ in the state. While addressing the media at the SP headquarters in Lucknow, the former UP CM demanded that the quota should be given on the basis of population.
“A fresh population census must also be done. The BJP has failed on every issue,” he said. Akhilesh Yadav is upset as Yadavs make the biggest chunk of OBCs and capping of reservation would hurt this community the most.
As part of its recommendations, the committee has also recommended the division of 22 per cent Dalit reservations into three categories — backward and more backwards 8 per cent each and most backward 9 per cent. However, this may not create trouble for the opposition as Dalits are believed to be the core constituency of BSP. Uttar Pradesh has 80 Parliamentary seats and the NDA had won 73 seats — BJP 71 and Apna Dal 2 — in the last Lok Sabha elections in 2014.